This recipe originally came from Martha Stewart’s Entertaining (1982). It is made from four simple ingredients: flour, water, yeast and salt. That said, it is one of my favorite breads which I make at least once a week. It has the same ingredients as my Italian bread but a completely different texture. This is due to the extra kneading time for the Italian bread. The braid is very attractive but it can also be shaped into baguettes or rolls. I prefer the braid as it makes an attractive presentation. Not only does it look good but tastes even better and makes incredible toast.
- 2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast or 1 package active dry yeast
- 2 3/4 cups warm water 100 to 110 degrees
- 7 cups bread flour approximately
- 4 teaspoons kosher salt
- white rice flour for dusting
- In the bowl of an electric mixer with a dough hook soften the yeast in the warm water. Add the salt and all but 1/2 cup of the flour. Turn the mixer on low (2) and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic adding more flour as necessary, approximately 4 minutes. The dough should pull away from the sides of the bowl.
- Put the kneaded dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch the dough down and let it rise a second time until it is doubled again, about 45 minutes. Sprinkle work surface with rice flour and turn dough out of bowl onto surface. Knead dough to remove air bubbles then divide into 6 equal pieces. (If making rolls divide dough into 24 equal pieces, shape into rounds and place on parchment lined sheet pan sprinkled with cornmeal).
- Shape each piece of dough into a long rope, about 12-inches long. Using 3 ropes, braid each loaf evenly. Place each braid on parchment paper sprinkled with cornmeal. Sprinkle each braid with rice flour and cover with a damp towel. Let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Place baking stone in oven and preheat to 400 degrees F, at least 30 minutes before baking bread.
- Spray loaves with water and sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds. Use pizza peel to slide bread (leaving on parchment) onto stone and bake for 25 minutes. Loaves are done when golden brown and crispy. Place on rack to cool and enjoy!
- Note: If you are going to store bread, either at room temperature or in freezer, let cool for at least 3 hours. Freezing the bread (for up to a month) does not change its quality or flavor. I slice the loaf after cooled, put in a plastic bread bag and freeze. Then I take out slices as I need them. This bread is especially good toasted!